28 Elementary Morality
vice. So again Shakespeare writes, "They say, best men
are moulded out of faults; And, for the most, become much
more the better For being a little bad/1
The extremes of vice and virtue are alike detestable;
absolute virtue is as sure to kill a man as absolute vice is,
let alone the dullnesses of it and the pomposities of it.
God does not intend people, and does not like people, to
be too good. He likes them neither too good nor too bad, but
a little too bad is more venial with him than a little too good.
As there is less difference than we generally think between
the happiness of men who seem to differ widely in fortune,
so is there also less between their moral natures; the best
are not so much better than the worst, nor the worst so
much below the best as we suppose ; and the bad are just
as important an element in the general progress as the good,
or perhaps more so. It is in strife that life lies, and were there
no opposing forces there would be neither moral nor immoral,
neither victory nor defeat.
If virtue had everything her own way she would be as
insufferable as dominant factions generally are. It is the
function of vice to keep virtue within reasonable bounds.
Virtue has never yet been adequately represented by any
who have had any claim to be considered virtuous. It is
the sub-vicious who best understand virtue. Let the virtuous
people stick to describing vice—which they can do well
My Virtuous Life
I have led a more virtuous life than I intended, or thought
I was leading. When I was young I thought I was vicious :
now I know that I was not and that my unconscious know-